On March 17, staff at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve posted a picture of a stack of tickets to their Facebook page, alongside a stern warning.
“Our officers are out in numbers watching for people illegally entering the State Natural Reserve through the barbed-wire fencing and hiking off trail, trampling the flowers,” the reserve wrote. “We understand this may not seem like the crime of the century, but it only takes the actions of a few to wreck the scenery for years to come.”
Apparently not everyone got the message. On Monday, two hikers set a new bar for flower-trampling when they landed in the reserve in a helicopter and started walking cross-country through the park.
California is currently in the midst of a record “super bloom,” fueled by a relatively wet winter and spring. Antelope Valley, a 1,781-acre state preserve located north of Los Angeles, is one of its epicenters. In a good year, California poppies cover the fields and hills there in a thick, dark orange carpet.
Unfortunately, the site’s popularity has been a problem in the past: Despite rules against leaving designated hiking paths, tourists have worn social trails into the poppy fields and laid in the flowers, trampling the plants beyond recovery.
Authorities are still investigating Monday’s incident; When a law-enforcement ranger began to approach the hikers, they retreated to their helicopter and flew away.
In the meantime, the preserve has a simple message for visitors: follow the rules and stay on the trail.
“We never thought it would be explicitly necessary to state that it is illegal to land a helicopter in the middle of the fields and begin hiking off trail,” the park wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. “We were wrong.”